There is no denying that business to business (B2B) marketing is different than business to consumer (B2C) marketing. Some say B2B marketing is more challenging than B2C marketing. Some say B2B marketing lacks creativity. Some even say that B2B marketing is downright boring.
A few weeks ago I attended the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum right here in Boston. This event dispelled all the common myths about B2B marketing. The topics covered everything from content marketing to the sales funnel and social media to metrics. As B2B marketers, we tend to dismiss the trends and techniques we hear about at marketing conferences. We say things like, “that doesn’t apply to my company” or “we could never do that!” However, the speakers at the B2B Marketing Forum challenged us to realize that being B2B does not make us the exception to every rule.
At the end of the two day conference I was able to synthesize my takeaways into four overarching themes that every B2B company should be thinking about as part of their marketing strategy.
The first theme is storytelling. All memorable content comes from great stories. Some great examples of this came from Teddy Goff, Digital Campaign Director for Obama’s 2012 campaign. He talked about how the campaign used human interest stories to mobilize people to donate, register, and vote. Whether it was a story about the President, his opponent, or a fellow American, people were interested and could relate to some aspect of what they were conveying. This in turn motivated many to take action.
The second theme is internal alignment. One of the sessions I sat in on was a case study on Xerox called “Creating Versatile Valuable Content for B2B Results.” The folks at Xerox found that 50-90 percent of their marketing content was not being used by the salespeople. Once they started working more closely with the sales team in the content process they were able to better understand the customer and create content that the salespeople actually wanted to use. Outside of the sales team, you should get as many people as possible involved in content creation, including the CEO. Everyone might have a different perspective on what your clients are looking for.
The third theme is problem solving. All marketing content should solve a problem for clients. The people from the Xerox case study realized that their old content was pushing their solutions rather than solving an actual problem a client was having. Marketing content should answer customer questions openly and honestly. As marketers we say that we can’t do this because our competitors will steel our secrets, but why do we let our competition influence our ability to teach? Really we should only be worrying about the customer.
The final theme is humanization. As B2B marketers we tend to forget that there are actual people behind brands. B2B marketing efforts have to appeal to the human customer. It is critical to define your customer and learn everything you can about them. Additionally, when trying to engage our clients in online communities, we can’t forget about the impact of a face-to-face experience. In the age of technology, a handshake and a shared meal still matter.